People: Heart of the Organization
Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success. -- Henry Ford
"The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished." -- Daniel W. Davenport
We all know that customer needs shape a business. Customers shape the architecture and requirements of any business solution. But, what we forget is that employee needs influence customer decisions. To achieve greater levels of customer satisfaction, any organization needs employees who are motivated, competent and knowledgeable. To succeed in today’s fast paced business environment companies need to ensure that their most valuable assets, their employees have access to critical information and applications, are motivated and proud to handle their responsibilities well.
Communicating in the workplace
People and applications usually talk to each other, but some applications and people don’t! Optimizing links between people and applications both internally and with those of suppliers and partners is a challenge indeed. Enterprise application integration aims to create an electronic super-corridor that facilitates both internal and external application integration. But, what about the people who work with these applications?
CRM initiatives and B2B applications take care of external applications that relate to customers to some extent. Just-enough partner integration, common messaging applications and document exchange automation are a few of the architecture principles in a B2B solution, while attending to customer needs is a CRM prerogative.
Online meetings and events are virtual workplaces where people engage in active conversational activities and organizational activities that encourage the collective intelligence in the company from growing.
It is a known fact that the Human Resources department takes care of employee needs, benefits and the like. But, is this enough? Do we need something more than this? Process automation? People-centric rules and processes that don’t just work within the office environment and facilitate better communication, but also extend to customer-centric applications and customers.
Studies have revealed the failure of many of the existing CRM initiatives, thus warranting a
microscopic look at existing business strategies. A change if necessary, will mean a completely new way in which an organization communicates. Discover new ways to communicate, transfer
information, innovate, add value, perform and measure performance. Use communication technology to facilitate the spread of knowledge to wider horizons and limits is the key.
The ongoing shift from ‘atoms’ to ‘bits’ forces any enterprise to reassess its business model. The emphasis is now on information assets, knowledge assets, intangible assets and intellectual capital. Business model innovation requires a paradigm shift in rethinking existing strategies as well as the way information and knowledge flow within the organization.
Steve Kerr, in the Planning Review describes the state of business strategy, as “The future is moving so quickly that you cannot predict it. We have put a tremendous emphasis on quick
response instead of quick planning. We will continue to be surprised, but we wont be surprised that we are surprised. We will anticipate the surprise.”
The new work economy
What’s the new way in which we conduct business? How do we see the present and the future? An evolutional development in the leading businesses of today is to seek the competitive edge through faster and better interactions. Business interactions are quite different today. The ways in which we work with each other, communicate, transfer information, view authority, innovate, add value, perform and measure performance in the workplace are undergoing a transformation.
At the same time, higher levels of stress, customers demanding more, increase in diversity, more competition, new communication channels and a greater pressure to deliver more with less is forcing organizations to take a relook at the existing rules and customs in which they work. CRM programs help bring together information about customers, sales, marketing effectiveness, responsiveness and market trends. Gartner Group studies have proven that even though 75% of the CRM initiatives have not done too well.
Providing better customer service, discovering new customers and increasing customer revenues are the goals of any CRM initiative. Interactions between customers on web sites, mail campaigns, brick and mortar stores, call centers; mobile sales force staff and other marketing resources. But what happens when interactions within the enterprise that provides CRM solutions don’t really follow a smooth pattern? With the extended virtual enterprise independent workers who live in a work-world devoid of meaningful human interaction often as outsourced specialists on contract can feel marginalized and isolated. The current economy dictates downsizing, restructuring and
reengineering. As a result more and more employees are following the virtual employee model and their needs have to be taken care of in the new enterprise.
What we have here is faster and more frequent interactions and relationships between the company and employees. Traditionally companies tended to spend more time and money on high induction, training and development costs. But, low morale and sub optimal employee performance proves that companies are not getting their employee relations right.
The need for an employee relationship management system within the enterprise is critical today. ERM is not a technology, or a product or an application but a strategy that aims to bring
conversation into newer avenues within an organization.
Sharing and creating knowledge motivates employees to learn and think in terms of a learning community. Collective learning fosters coping skills and builds change-resilience skills in a fast changing new environment.
The portal culture
An Intranet was an in-house web site that offered online employee directories and newsletters and email communication. Today it has evolved into a great deal more. The enterprise information portal that facilitate business functions like interactive discussions, document sharing, group polling, company wide scheduling and enables communications with customers and business partners. The portal is an internal self-service facility that allows employees to maintain and post their personal data, select their own benefit package options and research training and development options. Facilitating better communication, increasing productivity and cost savings, it’s transformed into an essential day-to-day tool for every employee.
Learning time management skills, sound decision making, problem solving and communication skills, lateral and creative thinking skills are a natural consequence of such a culture.
Extending the portal culture
Availing good employee relationships and providing a unified platform for employees to work involves much more than easy communication through a portal and its tools.
Lets look at how enterprise application integration and other collaborative efforts comprise an effective and efficient ERM deployment and how an enterprise portal serves these features. Collaboration, enterprise application integration and process automation! What do these terms mean for any organization today?
Business process modeling or BPM is a solution that aims to unify process automation and the workflow model by offering a single model that creates an ideal, collaborative synergy between people and systems. The goal is to make knowledge workers more efficient with systems that improve collaboration.
Lets trace out the evolution of collaborative efforts. Point-to-point interfaces that connected one application to another and shared information between departments or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems that were purported to be the one-system fits all solution don’t really collaborate too well as they don’t have the functionality that was required to fit all business processes. Sometimes, several interfaces were required to integrate ERP with existing legacy systems or with the newer applications. Then came middleware or enterprise application integration software that provided the basic infrastructure to rapidly connect internal applications and an organization’s interface.
The challenge then was to create an electronic information highway for internal application integration. Integrating external applications would naturally follow suit. Integration begins at home; that’s the concept we are discussing here. ERM systems that take care of EAI internally are the core to any organization’s competitive success today.
EAI requirements are reliable delivery and transaction management, process management and workflow management.
Workflow is the key enabler to an adaptive responsive organization. Collaborative inefficiencies arise due to an inability to easily collaborate with customers and suppliers, to share experience from previous projects and share critical information during business tasks. Application integration facilitates more efficient information delivery. Although most of the tools from EAI vendors today aim at making integration more elegant and manageable they fail at efficient collaboration. Collaborative applications like web browsers improve collaboration and take care of all business process needs. To integrate workflow management within the enterprise and overcome the shortcomings of working in a distributed environment, the solution is a knowledge portal.
Now how different is a knowledge management portal from an intranet? This lies in the definition of knowledge management itself i.e. capturing the data existing within an organization and storing it for easy retrieval, but also creating, sharing and reusing knowledge.
In an economy increasingly progressing at Mach speeds and occasionally failing at the same velocities, new revenue sources must be generated fast enough to justify the very existence of an organization. Staying competitive connotes beating the clock and transferring critical knowledge quickly up and down the enterprise value chain.
Exit research interviews have revealed that one of the most common reasons why employees leave an organization is for better opportunities elsewhere, as they felt that their talents were not being utilized to the full. This again leads us to the most important collaboration process called the portal. Not just an intranet but also a portal that collaborates knowledge. Like an Intranet it provides access to corporate data and business applications and knowledge repositories.
Gone are the days when employees worked within four walls and were able to share information with each other easily. With the extended virtual workplace of today, knowledge sharing is history. Collaboration and workflow automation delivered on a customizable, multidimensional interface like a portal includes content management tools like search and retrieval, access to electronic news and information, document repository and also collaboration and group productivity tools. The
unquestionable fact remains that the enterprise portal is the chosen delivery framework for all knowledge management endeavors. It acts as a unification point by catering to critical issues of organization adaptation, survival and competence in the face of increasingly discontinuous environment changes.
Workflow deals with higher-level transactions especially those between people. Analyzing workflow is vital to quality improvement efforts in an EAI solution. Collaboratively manage not just a workflow but also the information that supports it.
Spending billions of dollars implementing in-house information collection and dissemination systems without taking care of collaboration across workflows, business lines and processes is definitely not the solution.
Good project management enables users to track projects, monitor and manage them along with integrating them with other IT services in the enterprise. Most of us are involved in projects everyday but we just don’t know how to manage them. A project is goal-oriented, coordinates activities within it, has marked beginnings and endings and is unique. It’s a system for taking corrective action and places an emphasis on timely responses.
A knowledge management portal delivers customized information to its users by figuring out what is contextually relevant to its users. Personalization software makes educated guesses about employee preferences and capabilities, thus enabling companies to quickly enlist people with the right skills
and knowledge for a particular project. Personalization extends beyond the content provided by roles the user plays. The user can determine the page layout and the information he receives in the most usable and pertinent manner.
The portal is a collaborative element that stretches across both the enterprise and partners. The portal is a unified point of access to all applications, business integration and documents. The user is at the center point and is able to interact with information from a variety of sources and
collaborate with others both inside and outside the organization. Thus proving that the portal is the best working environment for recognizing and resolving business problems most quickly and serves as a people-centric platform for the collaborative enterprise.
In the early days of the Internet, an online presence meant an online brochure that would increase organization exposure among browser-equipped end-users. What it did was to provide information about products and services and increase brand name recognition.
The beginnings of e-commerce saw the models of mail order catalogs and the end-90s extended internal applications in an organization to B2B and B2C applications. All these models have undergone a metamorphosis and the emphasis is now on giving the user something fresh and new and often. Data warehousing and mining technologies can divine customer preferences and pump targeted personalized content to the user. The enterprise portal is again the chosen delivery framework for content management endeavors.
Targeted communications using push technology, information retrieval initiated by a sending system that instantly notifies managers when key performance indicators stray outside acceptable limits convert the portal into a veritable “corporate cockpit”.
Search and retrieval tools, access to electronic news and information, a repository for documents, web sites and databases and collaboration and group productivity tools of a content management system are delivered through a customizable, multidimensional interface.
Training people in sound-decision making, problem solving and communication skills, lateral and creative thinking skills along with priority setting and search refinement techniques using techno-enhanced and self-directed training methods can take into account different preferences of individual employees.
Promoting a culture of leadership that distributes itself not just among the top management but also through out the organization and also spawning a culture of internal service that will eventually extend to external service.
Free communication like open internal polls, the use of employee self-service software, and the other aspects of virtual teamwork, ongoing surveys help avoid and identify misalignments within the organization. Misalignments can be due to a lack of clarity, misunderstandings, a silo mentality, friction and disagreement existing between departments.
Moving up the ladder or across?
The employee can decide which ladder he wants to climb, the hierarchical one or the horizontal one that makes for an all-rounder. He can also determine and monitor personal growth through planned research and self-directed training.
ERM focuses on customer and customer-facing employees by integrating everything from marketing to sales to service. Customer-facing employees when happy, deliver results. Productivity and effectiveness improve directly in proportion to their performance. A multitude of tools and software suites that focused on only on processes without worrying about the people behind them, were not able to address this specific issue. ERM integrates technology, strategy, process and the most critical ingredient of an organization - people.
It gives customer-facing employees the freedom to develop their own strategy and implement it with ease. And the freedom to operate in their own styles and use personalized processes that do not necessarily conform to the standard.
As for customers, they can access the enterprise through multiple channels like the call center, the web etc.
The foundation on which any technology works is the application of people basics.
ERM is a collection of system and tools that –
•Strengthen corporate communication and culture
•Foster learning - about company products, services and customers in a single personalized and easily accessible format through an enterprise portal.
•Customer facing employees become more competent to handle customer interactions
•New communication channels - mail, shared folders, mail filters, web mail, calendar and mailing lists.
•Open talk forum management
•Project management – Execution and approval
•Workflow management – Forms creation, process management that links applications and processes
Real time access to company training
•Targeted information to employees based on their interests and needs – User personalization
•Reduce time spent in searching for information – unified search tools
•Streamlined performance management
•Creative resource management
•Loyalty and commitment from employees
•Freeing HR department to concentrate on more strategic tasks
•Encourage innovation levels
•Retain talent – valued employees
•Reduce recruitment and training costs
•Effective and consistent rewarding
Some of the tools in an ERM product would be: Content management
1. Add, delete and modify content
2. Dynamic page support – Ability to connect with a database 3. Restricted view ability of content.
4. User personalization 5. Site map creation 6. Content repository
7. Presentation template creation
1. Create and edit mailing lists and discussion forums 2. Team management definitions
3. Mailing lists 4. Discussion forums
5. Web mail and administration 6. Bulletin boards for discussion
1. Calendar creation and sharing 2. Open talk forum for employees
1. Creation and approval of estimates 2. Resource and task definitions 3. Milestone approvals
4. Other project management aids like status and reports of projects 5. Resource management
6. Create and manage projects through execution
1. Create and manage processes 2. Forms management
3. Track workflow
The other tools in an ERM package monitor performance management and enable e training. Organizational improvement tools where the employee defines his promotion strategy and creates projects to undertake for his own personal growth and execute them with ease.
A web-based ERM package is an employee self-service tool that helps an employee take care of routine business tasks far more easily and focus on higher value-added tasks instead. This self-service extends external to the organization in the form of an Enterprise Self-self-service model that allows major stakeholders to interact with the organization in a personalized and collaborative manner. On the whole, it is a holistic collaborative solution that includes CRM, Business Intelligence, Knowledge management and a collaborative portal.